Our Dermatology Online
Case Report
Plakophilin 4 and ARVCF expression in a bullous
cutaneous drug reaction
Ana Maria Abreu Velez1, David J. Cohen2, Michael S. Howard1
Georgia Dermatopathology Associates, Atlanta, Georgia USA, 2Dermatologic Surgery Specialists, PC, Macon, Georgia, USA
1
Corresponding author: Ana Maria Abreu Velez, E-mail: [email protected]
ABSTRACT
The subepidermal vesiculobullous disorders include a wide variety of pathogenically unrelated entities, which share
the formation of clefts or bullae. A 59 year old female presented with a sudden eruption of pruritic skin vesicles and
blisters on several areas of her body. The patient was taking multiple medications. We decided to test for the expression
of p0071 and ARVCF because they are linked with tight, adherens, and occludens cell junctions in the epidermis and
the dermis, and study if these molecules participate in the bullae formation. Skin biopsies were taken from lesional
skin and were tested by hematoxylin and eosin(H&E) staining, as well as via immunohistochemistry (IHC) and direct
immunofluorescence(DIF) using multiple antibodies. ARVCF and p0071 were overexpressed in the epidermis, and in
dermal cell junctions around the blisters along with ribosomal protein S6-pS240, Factor XIIIa, CD15, CD45, multiple
immunoglobulins, complement, fibrinogen and HLA-DP, DQ, DR antigen. All these molecules were also overexpressed
around dermal vessels, eccrine glands and in neurovascular cell junctions below the blister. A normal control did not
display the overexpression. Drug reactions may cause blisters; regional cell junctions may be altered, as demonstrated
by overexpression of ARVCF and p0071. The overexpression likely contributes to passage of immunologic cells and
formation of edema, directly contributing to blister formation.
Key words: Subepidermal blisters; Drug reactions; Plakophilin 4; ARVCF
INTRODUCTION
Drug eruptions often present with blisters [1,2].
Sometimes these blisters present when patients are
taking multiple medications. Little is known about
cell junction alterations and their putative roles in
drug reactions. Here we described an interesting case,
suggesting involvement of altered cell junctions in
blister formation.
CASE REPORT
Here we present a 59 year old female, who presented
with a sudden eruption of pruritic skin vesicles
and blisters. The patient was taking NitroQuick®
0.4 mgs/day, Phentanyl 75® mg/day, ProAir HFA 90®
mgs/day, Tetracycline 500 mg/day, Vectical® 3 mcg
and Pamelor ® 50 mg/day (for medical depression
and some breathing difficulties). Skin biopsies were
taken for hematoxylin and eosin (H&E) staining,
for direct immunofluorescence (DIF) and for
immunohistochemical (IHC) staining; their processing
was performed as previously described [2]. The
pathology results demonstrated a subepidermal blister
due to a drug reaction, and the patient was evaluated to
determine which medication was causing the reaction.
The patient was provided with Phenergan®50 mgs/day,
and Olux E® topical foam with improvement.
We utilized normal skin samples from breast reduction
surgery as controls. For the DIF, we utilized standard
panel antibodies as previously described [2]. In addition
to these, we utilized a polyclonal antibody to Armadillo
Repeat Gene Deleted in Velo-Cardio-Facial syndrome
(ARVCF) (source guinea pig and tested in human and
bovine, Catalog No. GP155, dilution 1:20; from Progen
Biotechnik, Heidelberg, Germany); as its secondary, we
utilized goat anti-guinea pig IgG (H&L), conjugated
How to cite this article: Abreu Velez AM, Cohen DJ, Howard MS. Plakophilin 4 and ARVCF expression in a bullous cutaneous drug reaction. Our Dermatol
Online. 2017;8(4):410-412.
Submission: 27.11.2016;
Acceptance: 20.02.2017
DOI: 10.7241/ourd.20174.116
© Our Dermatol Online 4.2017
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with Alexa 555 (2 mg/ml; 0.5ml) from Invitrogen
(Carlsbad, California, USA), Catalog No. A.21435.
We also utilized anti-p0071 (mouse monoclonal
multi-epitope cocktail, Catalog No. 641166) from
Progen and as its secondary, a Texas red conjugated
goat anti-mouse IgG, at a 1:50 dilution (Invitrogen,
Catalog No. T862).
We further utilized polyclonal rabbit anti-human
myeloperoxidase, monoclonal mouse
anti-human antibodies to cyclo-oxygenase 2
(COX-2), anti-human HLA-DP, DQ, DR antigen,
CD4, CD8, CD15, CD45; ribosomal protein
S6-pS240/phosphorylation site specific (Ribo), and
Factor XIIIA(all from Novocastra/Leica, Buffalo Grove,
Illinois, USA).
The H&E staining demonstrated a subepidermal
blister, with partial re-epithelialization of the blister
base. Within the blister lumen, no significant
cellular infiltrate was seen (Fig. 1a, red arrow, 100X).
Dermal papillary festoons were observed; within the
dermis, a mild, superficial, perivascular infiltrate of
a
b
c
lymphocytes, histiocytes, neutrophils and occasional
eosinophils was identified. DIF displayed IgG (+++,
on focal cell junctions in the epidermis and dermis;
no classic intercellular staining between epidermal
keratinocytes was seen); IgE (+, focal dermal positivity);
Complement/C1q (+, linear at the dermal/epidermal
junction and on c-ANCAS); Complement/C3 (+, focal
linear at the base membrane zone (BMZ), and focally
on dermal neural structures); Lambda light chains (+,
focal cell junctions in the dermis); albumin (+++,
focal cell junctions in the epidermis and dermis) and
fibrinogen (+++, neurovascular structures). ARVCF
was overexpressed throughout the dermis (++++);
p0071 was overexpressed in the epidermis ++++),
as well as on blood vessels near eccrine glands and on
material excreted through eccrine glands (++++).
Our normal skin controls displayed p0071 (+), and
ARVCF (+), stains. The other immunoglobulin,
complement and inflammatory cell markers were
negative.
Our IHC results demonstrated strong reactivity with
Factor XIIIa in cells around the dermal blood vessels.
HLA-DP, DQ, DR antigen was also very positive around
these vessels (Fig. 1). The inflammatory infiltrate
around the vessels was also positive for CD45; this
staining highlighted fragmented lymphocytes. Both
CD4 and CD68 were negative, and only few cells
were positive for CD8 and COX-2 around the dermal
blood vessels. Ribo was positive on epidermal cells
surrounding the blisters. Some CD15 positive cells were
noted around the blisters, and around upper dermal
blood vessels.
DISCUSSION
d
e
f
Figure 1: (a) H&E staining shows a subepidermal blister base(red
arrow); the black arrow shows the lymphohistiocytic infiltrate around
upper dermal vessels (100X). (b) Double IHC staining, showing
positive staining for CD15 (brown staining) and COX-2(red staining)
near the epidermis (red arrow). (c)DIF using FITC conjugated
anti-human fibrinogen antibodies shows positive dot pattern staining
in several epidermal cell junctions (antigens of unknown nature;
yellow staining; red arrow). (d) DIF showing overexpression of p0071
in the neurovascular net around eccrine gland ducts. Notably, p0071
seems to be reactive to material extruded though the eccrine ducts.
The epidermis also showed positive staining for p0071 (red staining;
white arrows). (e) DIF using FITC conjugated anti-human fibrinogen
antibody, and showing a detail of the reactive material extruded through
an eccrine gland acrosyringium (green/yellow staining; red arrow). The
white arrow highlights reactivity on epidermal cell junctions. (f) Double
IHC staining, showing positivity around upper dermal blood vessels
for Factor XIIIa (brown staining; blue arrow), in proximity to CD45
(red staining; black arrow).
© Our Dermatol Online 4.2017
Blistering drug eruptions are common, possibly due
to an aging population and the increased number
of medications that many patients are utilizing;
the overall drug reaction patterns seem to be more
complex than previously described [1-2]. Many drug
reactions may involve excretions of drug breakdown
products through the sweat glands, as shown in
this case via overexpression of p0071, ARVCF and
other markers [3]. Here, we detected reactivity with
secondary intracellular cell signaling molecules (Ribo),
as well as immunoglobulins, complement, and CD15
to epidermal and dermal antigens. Notably, p0071
is a plakophilin and a member of the p120 (ctn)
family of armadillo-related proteins [4]. Here we
demonstrated overexpression of p0071 and ARVCF;
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these molecules are linked with tight, adherens, and
occludens cell junctions. We hypothesize that edema
and inflammatory cells penetrate the blister through
altered cell junctions [3] ARVCF and p0071 molecules
are also present in in the cells junctions of the vessels
and nerves.
We speculate that the drug reaction elicits
inflammation, facilitating the passage of cells
as well as serum from adjacent vessels that are
overexpressing HLA-DR,DP,DQ antigen. We
speculate that additional cells, present in the dermis
before initiation of the drug reaction are also involved.
In our case, such a constellation of events and cells
staining positive for Factor XIIIa, CD15 and CD45
were likely involved in the pathologic process as well
as some drug metabolites excreting through the
acrosyringia of eccrine glands.
Excretion of material by eccrine glands has previously
been described by others in drug reactions [3]. We have
previously described increased expression of p0071
in another drug reaction [2]; we speculate that both
p0071 and ARVCF not only play roles in maintaining
tissue integrity and cell adhesion, but also have putative
roles in cell signaling and may help inflammatory
mediators to move through cell junctions, as shown by
the overexpression of these two molecules. We noted
a CD8 T cell response and intensification of HLA-DP,
DQ, DR antigen, COX-2 and Ribo expression in the
lesion, suggesting not only a non-specific immune
response(COX-2), but also a more specific immune
response with antigen presentation through the HLADP,DQ,DR and T cell interactions; secondary cell
signaling is likely occurring via Ribo. These features
may explain why some people who have experienced
one drug reaction are prone to present with additional
drug reactions (possibly due to an immune memory
response). In our case ARVCF was overexpressed
throughout the dermis. It is known that ARVCF binds
to the PDZ-domain of zonula occludens ZO-1 and
ZO-2 tight junction proteins [5].
Our findings may explain the dot-like reactivity seen
in both the dermis and the epidermis with p0071 and
ARVCF as a response against likely cell junctions,
suggesting that, at least in this case, the drugs acted
as triggering factor(s). Specifically, epitopes on cells
junctions and/or other molecules were presented
as putative antigens through the HLA-DP,DQ,DR
© Our Dermatol Online 4.2017
overexpression. p0071 has been described as a protein
with dual localization in adherens junctions and
desmosomes, depending on the cell type examined;
here we clearly see an extrusion of p0071 (possibly
part of damaged adherens junctions, extruded by the
immune response through eccrine sweat glands; see
Fig. 1).
In summary, we observed strong reactivity to epidermal
and dermal cell junctions in a drug reaction via DIF
and IHC. Drug reactions may cause blisters; here,
we demonstrated cell junction marker expression for
p0071/plakophilin and ARVCF. The overexpression
of these markers may in turn contribute to passage of
immunologic cells and edema in blister formation, as
well as drug metabolite excretion through acrosyringia
of eccrine glands. Few publications in the medical
literature have described p0071 and ARVCF expression
in cutaneous drug reactions.
Abbreviations
B a s e m e n t m e m b r a n e z o n e ( B M Z ) , d i re c t
immunofluorescence (DIF), immunohistochemistry
(IHC), hematoxylin and eosin staining (H&E), armadillo
repeat gene deleted in velo-cardiofacial syndrome
(ARVCF), tight junctions (TJs), adherens junctions (AJs),
ribosomal protein S6-pS240/phosphorylation site specific
(Ribo), cyclo-oxygenase 2 (COX-2), 4’,6-diamidino-2phenylindole (DAPI).
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Copyright by Ana Maria Abreu Velez, et al. This is an open access article
distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License,
which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any
medium, provided the original author and source are credited.
Source of Support: Georgia Dermatopathology Associates, Atlanta,
Georgia, USA, Conflict of Interest: None declared.
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Plakophilin 4 and ARVCF in a bullous cutaneous drug reaction Cohen

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